Mistaken identity

A long time ago, when I was a young pup still in college, maybe second or third year in, so that would put me at 20 years old or so, I was looking for a job. I felt the need to make a little cash while continuing my full time studies in a demanding college program. When you’re 20, even a little cash is a lot. Even a side gig is a serious endeavor. And so is searching for it.

I don’t remember exactly how I came across this story. I think it was a job ad in the paper (yes, people used to look for jobs through newspaper classifieds) or maybe I snatched a business card somewhere (another nearly defunct antiquity). In any case, I somehow got a name and number of this person – and I think he was some sort of executive or chief something officer in a fairly small company.

So I called the number and asked a secretary to be connected to that person (and yet another thing of the past – secretary for a mid level manager … potentially still very common in the old country but not so much in a more democratic West). The secretary, who sounded young, sexy, snobbish and unattainable so that so I could hear her tapping her high heels impatiently on the hardwood or tile floor), sighed in near disgust and promised to connect. A long hold to a happy tune that felt like an eternity, with my stomach growling in unison to the tune, I figured she was telling him, well some kid is calling you and him pressing her, who is the kid and what am I paying you for and her (rather rudely) saying how the hell should I know when you give your number away to every slut you meet and then expect me to sleep with you and that’s what you’re paying me for anyway, not more … The happy tune finally ended and the male voice muttered “Yes hello”. What followed was a poorly prepared version of my spiel that attempted to convince him how I, a hardly worthy young individual of non-existent skills and accomplishments, would take his company to a new level. I could tell he wanted to play a nice guy card, softly interrupting my speech with hmm’s and ahh’s but I saw that the end was near – his interest was waning. He did manage to stay on the phone with me for 3 or 4 minutes after which he apologized and said he was late for another meeting. And he asked me to call back next week.

And I did. Diligently, hands shaking and voice as coarse as sandpaper, I dialed the number, and after 2 or 3 beeps the same secretary picked up the phone. I said well me again, such and such, calling for such and such. Because he asked me to call back, that’s why, answering a question she never asked but I bet the one that was burrowing her pretty little brain.

Not 30 seconds later, the executive picked up the phone and crooned, “Stas? Is that you? So great to hear from you!! How are things?” I was stunned. Is he drunk, I’m thinking? High? Both? Getting laid while all this is happening? By the tone of the conversation I could tell none of those were remotely relevant. He was sober as a judge. And lacked the excitement typically characteristic of getting laid. And his voice was steady and happy, like he met an old friend. I started thinking well, maybe it’s just working out?

He started by asking what I want to do with my life. I said, well I am heading towards an econ major, and the country is heading towards a free market and now’s the best time to take advantage of this kind of symbiosis of my and the country’s combined future. Even in his delighted state he was likely thinking, this guy is an absolute waste of space. So the conversation went on, with him telling me in detail what his company was doing and what he was working on currently. Not anything seriously confidential, like a Pepsi recipe or his bank account number but personal enough for a stranger to be made aware of. Then he started telling me where I might fit in. Although they don’t have anything at the moment, he could create an internship for a special guy like me. I am thinking, a) this guy is super lonely or b) he likes young guys and he’s super lonely or c) he is drunk, high and getting laid but is handling all of that surprisingly well. There was another option, that I was missing something and that I actually made a great impression on him and was not giving myself enough credit.

Still very suspicious, I went on. He kept on spewing ideas on how to make things happen for me, increasingly excited and energetic.

And then he says, “And what does your dad think of our industry?”

I thought for a moment and blurted out, “My dad doesn’t think much of any industry, to be honest, he’s a doctor”.

An awkward pause followed. “I’m sorry, aren’t you Vladimir Victorovich’s son?”

“No….?” I replied and there was a bit of a question baked in there. As if asking if there is a chance that my dad’s name is in fact Vladimir Victorovich. And as if asking, do I still have a chance?

Needless to say, the tone of the executive’s voice changed in a split second. The excitement and energy that was so obvious seconds ago melted away. So did his manners. In a rather rude voice he stated the obvious, “I thought you were someone else” and after wishing me good luck he hung up.

I was sitting there and thinking to myself that I wish I’d never called that guy. This is even worse than being out of work. I was kind of hired, under a false pretense, told what my job was going to be, had an equivalent of a sign up bonus – you know, someone powerful being actually super nice to me. And after all that – fired. And for what? For being the wrong guy’s son?

This last part didn’t make any sense. I went to talk to my dad, you know, a doctor with a wrong name, who told me with conviction and authority, his life’s wisdom at play there – “Fuck them”.

After that we had a couple of drinks and I never thought about it again. Until today.

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